I was guest editor at Nightmare this October, for the issue titled POC Destroy Horror, now on sale. I was tasked with selecting four original stories, Tananarive Due worked on reprints and Maurice Broaddus edited non-fiction.
Some 250 stories arrived in the slush. I read all of them and tried to reply as promptly as I could. I believe this number was smaller than the numbers for the science fiction issue. That wasn’t a problem, though. The truth is that with slush, generally about 90% of it is not ready to be published. It suffers from basic problems. If you have 250 stories, about 25 of them are going to be in a good enough state to deserve publication and then there’s the few gems which just don’t let you sleep.
One of the author’s in the final lineup was solicited (she’s a fine writer), and the other three I picked from the slush.
The truth is no editor with some experience needs to slush. You develop your Rolodex. You know who can write the stories you need. You can fill a book with a dozen names from that. I slushed because I thought the three remaining slots should ideally go to folks who could really use the opportunity, writers who were relatively new and up and coming, instead of seeing if I could get some people who were already well-known.
That’s one way of putting together an issue. It’s not the only one.
Of course, since I only took three stories from the slush that leaves 247 which were rejected. The rejection means very little. As I said, 90% of writers in the slush are not ready to be published, but whether they will improve drastically or slowly or quickly, I don’t know. Practice does help, trust me on that. Reading is essential (look at Best of the Year anthologies, respected magazines or award finalists, but don’t zero in only on those, there are underrated works, vary your pastures). Honest reflection is also useful, although that’s harder to come by when you are caught in the anger and sadness.
But at this point a little time has passed so perhaps you’ll listen to me again. If you are one of the 247 who submitted and did not make my final table of contents, I am now co-editing at The Dark. It’s a semi-pro zine and reads all year round. If you are not one of the persons who submitted but you think I might enjoy your work, do send me something.
The odds, in writing, are never in your favor but I read quickly and my rejections never take more than a few days (which means you can send your story our again or rewrite it fairly quickly, and that’s what you want to be doing).
There’s no trick to “making” it in the world of horror fiction or anywhere else. It’s hard work, for the most part, and then there’s a pinch of luck. If we met in the slush this summer, I wish you luck and perhaps we’ll meet again. If we haven’t met, I’d love to read your work.
Please give POC Destroy Horror a look if you can, either way. All the editors, writers, illustrators and copy-editors worked hard on it and I’m assure they’d appreciate your feedback. As would I. Take care.